Play based on 1947 movie asks audience to believe in Santa

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Will Kris Kringle, played by Scotty MacLaren, convince Susan, played by Simma Lefcourt, to believe in Santa Claus? (photo courtesy of Whitefish Theatre Co.)

The family classic “Miracle on 34th Street” is the Whitefish Theatre Company’s holiday show this season at the O’Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish.

This beloved play opens with a sneak preview night on Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. Performances continue on Dec. 8, 9, 15, and 16 at 7:30 p.m., on Dec. 9 and 16 at 2 p.m., and on Dec. 10 and 17 at 4 p.m.

Based on the cherished 1947 film, “Miracle on 34th Street” is the perfect feel-good holiday show for the whole family to enjoy. The holiday season is in full swing when a gentleman with twinkling eyes, an ample belly, and a snowy beard is hired as a Macy’s department store Santa. He claims his name is Kris Kringle and he soon fills everyone with Christmas spirit except his boss, Doris Walker, who is raising her daughter Susan to be a realistic, pragmatic girl who is certainly too sensible to believe in Santa Claus. But when Kringle is declared insane and put on trial, everyone’s faith is put to the test as young and old alike face the age-old question: Do you believe in Santa? Broadway World calls the warm magic of “Miracle on 34th Street” a “perfect mix of bubbly fun and festiveness to spark the holiday spirit.”

In presenting “Miracle on 34th Street.” Director Valeri McGarvey has enjoyed focusing on the true meaning of the holiday season.

“It has been refreshing to leave behind the current news headlines and go back in time to 1947 to live in the simple story of ‘believe,’” says McGarvey. “The classic story of Susan’s — and her mother’s — growing belief in Santa Claus is touching and heartwarming and really reminds us of what is important — loving each other, leaving behind the focus on commercialism, and opening our hearts to miracles again.”

Reviews have called “Miracle on 34th Street” a “tale that we want to believe in ... where love and decency and generosity of spirit are their own rewards.”

While McGarvey has directed numerous plays at Flathead High School where she worked for 25 years and has been in local productions with the Alpine Theatre Project and FVCC, “Miracle on 34th Street” is the first play that she has directed for the Whitefish Theatre Company.

“I have enjoyed my first directing opportunity with WTC so much,” says McGarvey. “It has been an honor to join the WTC family, especially with a show as special as ‘Miracle on 34th Street.’”

The cast is comprised of 27 actors from around the Flathead Valley. Kris Kringle is played by Scotty MacLaren, Doris Walker is played by Wendy McFadden, Susan Walker is played by Simma Lefcourt, and Fred Gayley is played by Andrew Matulionis. Also contributing to the design of “Miracle on 34th Street” are Robbie Moody, lighting and sound designer; and Jen Stebbins-Han, props master. The exceptionally detailed costumes are designed by Sarah Bell and her talented cast of dedicated seamstresses who’ve worked tirelessly to make nearly 100 costumes for the show.

“‘Miracle on 34th Street’ brings such nostalgia for times past and is wonderfully represented on stage with a beautiful set and one-of-a-kind, authentic costumes,” adds McGarvey. “The cast and I have thoroughly enjoyed working through the script together, engaging wholeheartedly in the philosophy that Christmas isn’t just a day, but a frame of mind.”

To add interactive fun to the show, audiences will be invited to sing along with holiday music that will be played during scene changes in the play.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, and $10 for students with reserved seating. Tickets for the sneak preview performance on Dec. 7 are sold only at the door and are $12 for adults and $10 for students. Tickets can be purchased at the Box Office, 1 Central Ave., Whitefish, or by calling 862-5371. Box office hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and one hour before performance times. Tickets can also be purchased online at www.whitefishtheatreco.org.

The show is sponsored by the Whitefish Credit Union. The sponsors for the student outreach performance are NXGEN and Jody & Frank Gray.

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